Yasmin El Mouallem's winning pitch to create an online platform that can specifically address maternal mental health needs grabbed the top honours at the debut edition of the Sharjah Business Women Council's (SBWC) Pearl Quest, a high-profile and intense business pitching event open to women founders and entrepreneurs in the UAE.

The pitching rounds, which were held at the Women's Pavilion in Expo 2020 Dubai, saw seven contestants pitch their unique ideas to win substantial funding to start and/or grow their businesses. Through Pearl Quest, SBWC – a NAMA Women Advancement affiliate, reinforced its commitment to promote a culture of sustainable female entrepreneurship in the UAE and across the world by offering end-to-end support for all aspects of a business venture, including mentoring, training and funding.

Community needs and education-based projects honoured

El Mouallem received AED 100,000 in funding support while first runner up Muna Aldhabbah received AED 75,000 for Hala Jary, an online neighborhood platform designed to address network neighbourhood needs.

Mouza Al Darmaki and her seven-year-old daughter, Al Dhabi Al Mheiri - the youngest Emirati publisher and entrepreneur, were adjudged second runners up for their project Rainbow Chimney, an e-commerce platform selling educational aids and books. The mother-daughter duo received AED 50,000.

The three winners will be granted spots in the 2022 Sharjah Startup Studio (S3) program, Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center's (Sheraa) unique venture building program designed to support early-stage entrepreneurs by helping them validate their idea, build their product, and take it to the market. All seven participating entries have secured spots at an idea validation bootcamp organised by Sheraa.

The winning pitches were selected by a distinguished panel of judges based on the originality of their ideas; its positive, sustainable, environmental and social impact on the community; and its functionality and ease of implementation. Judges for the debut edition of Pearl Quest included Tao Xiao, Partner, NH Management; Haleema Al Owais, 3rd Gen real estate leader, wealth management professional and educator; Hind Al Huwaidi, Director of Education, Bee'ah Consultancy, Research and Innovation; Mohamed Abdul Aziz Al Owais, Al Owais Enterprises and United Foods PJSC; Najda Al Hajeri, General Coordinator, Sharjah Excellence Award, Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and Etienne Van Den Peereboom, Adviser to the CEO, Sheraa.

Committed to fostering entrepreneurship

Sheikha Hind Bint Majid Al Qasimi, Chairperson of SBWC, stated that the pioneering edition of Pearl Quest marks a significant milestone in the Council's 20-year journey of growth. 

The SBWC Chairperson said: “In line with the vision of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and Founder and patron of SBWC, we remain committed to our broader vision of transforming Sharjah into a global incubator of female talent and entrepreneurship. The seven shortlisted entrepreneurs participating at Pearl Quest today are ambitious, fearless, and are committed to excel and take their impactful ideas forward. Their clear vision, risk-taking abilities, and creativity in imagining solutions resonate with the values embedded in the goals and vision of SBWC."  

Amongst the other contenders at the Pearl Quest pitching event included Sweetal Sindhvad who proposed the concept of implementing a specialised training programme for social-emotional learning; Asli Can Ahmad, who presented the concept of eco-friendly liquid detergent filling stations; Fatima Al Hebshi who presented her Make Environment Great Again (MEGA) initiative; and Esraa Sameeh, who pitched for a one-stop platform offering services in Arabic for Arab entrepreneurs.

Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, said: “Through our strategic partnership with SBWC, we aim to provide the best possible foundation for entrepreneurs to gain access to key resources that are essential to launch or jumpstart their business, and build it alongside them. The market-worthy solutions of the Pearl Quest winners demonstrate the potential of women entrepreneurs in building high-impact, scalable solutions across different verticals.”

“I wholeheartedly congratulate the winners - Yasmin El Mouallem, Muna Aldhabbah, Mouza Al Darmaki and her inspiring 7-year-old daughter, Al Dhabi Al Mheiri, for their creative visions that will positively impact all communities. These powerful ideas resonate with the values embedded in Sheraa, and we look forward to welcoming them into our supportive ecosystem as they kickstart their entrepreneurial journeys,” concluded Al Midfa.

The Pearl Quest is sponsored by several of SBWC’s Women in Business supporters including Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), Platinum Partner; BEEAH and the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gold Partners, DiliTrust, Silver Partner, along with The Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP) and Jupiter Business Mentors, Advocate for Pearl Quest.

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